Last Friday, I was able to attend a speech given at the Orem LDS Institute of Religion, adjacent to Utah Valley University (UVU), given by Richard J. Mouw, from 1993 until earlier this year the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, California. Professor Mouw, who has always been personally cordial to me and for whom I have great respect, is a philosophical theologian and an eminent figure in American Evangelical intellectual life. Afterwards, I attended a luncheon for him, and then I was in the small audience for a panel discussion involving him on the UVU campus proper. I’ll report on that panel discussion later. For now, I’ll concentrate on offering a few notes from his lecture.
Elder Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presided at the lecture. Elder Paul V. Johnson, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and the commissioner of education for the Church, also attended. The program was conducted by Elder Steven J. Lund of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy.
The Institute choir began the program with (I believe) a medley of two Protestant hymns, exceptionally well rendered, that are apparently favorites of Professor Mouw’s. A very nice gesture, I thought. And there was absolutely nothing in the lyrics that Latter-day Saints cannot affirm and have not, historically, affirmed.
Dr. Mouw opened his remarks with a lengthy exposition of 1 Peter 3:8-15, for which (although he quoted from a different translation, perhaps the New International Version or NIV) I supply the King James text:
8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
Evangelicals, Professor Mouw lamented, have too often forgotten that last phrase (“with meekness and fear,” or, as the NIV has it, “with gentleness and respect”).
He spoke of the need for “convicted civility,” a phrase, he says, for which he has often been given credit, but which he attributes to the great University of Chicago historian of Christianity Martin Marty, who once complained that people with convictions frequently lack civility, while civil people too often lack conviction.
We Mormons and Evangelicals should be willing to learn from one another, said Dr. Mouw. We should be willing to work together for the shalom of the place in which we live. There has been far too much “shouting at one another, insulting one another, demonizing one another.”
The Book of Mormon, he seemed to suggest, offers some common ground. Evangelicals have focused on the story of its coming forth, ignoring its content. But, leaving aside the question of its origin, on which Mormons and Evangelicals will inevitably take different positions, “when it comes to the redemptive work of Christ, we say the same things.” He acknowledges that there is a gulf between us regarding the King Follett Discourse and parts of the Doctrine and Covenants, but the doctrine of the Book of Mormon, he said, is “much like ours” — in illustration of which he read from the seventh chapter of Alma:
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.
Professor Mouw specifically cited, with approval, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s conference talk “None were with him,” which has also been excerpted for an excellent “Mormon Messages” video.
Posted from Arlington, Virginia